This 3-day sourdough bread method is our go-to for a richly flavored, tangy country loaf. It combines room temperature fermentation alongside cold proofing to extend the microbial activity, resulting in greater gluten development and a more flavorful, easily digestible loaf of bread!
(makes one 2 lb loaf of bread)
125 grams leaven made with:
- 25 grams active sourdough starter (fed within 6-8 hours)
- 50 grams whole wheat flour
- 50 grams warm water (filtered or de-chlorinated)
350 grams warm water (filtered or de-chlorinated)
415 grams bread flour
30 grams whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Feed your starter. Let sit out at room temperature for 6-8 hours. Combine 25 grams of your now active starter (fed earlier that day), 50 grams warm water and 50 grams whole wheat flour in a small bowl; mix until combined. Transfer mixture to a container with a loose lid and refrigerate overnight. This is your leaven.
Combine 350 grams warm water and all 125 grams leaven (from the night before) in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers or a dough whisk, gently pull the leaven apart and dissolve in the water. Add 415 grams bread flour plus 30 grams whole wheat flour. Mix until incorporated completely. Cover bowl with a towel and leave in a warm place to ferment for one hour.
STRETCH & FOLDS: Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface like a large cutting board. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with 2 teaspoons fine sea salt. To prevent sticking, either flour or wet your hands before touching the dough.
Using your hands, gently pull and stretch the bottom third of the dough up and across the middle third, pressing down lightly to adhere. Then pull and stretch the top third of the dough up and across the middle third and press down lightly to adhere. It will look like you're making an envelope.
Next, work the sides of the dough by pulling, stretching and folding the left third of the dough across the middle third of dough; followed by the right third, pressing down lightly to adhere. We refer to stretching and folding all 4 sides as a “complete envelope fold”. Cover your dough with a towel, and leave in a warm place to ferment for an hour (or, in warmer temperatures, 35-45 minutes).
REPEAT! Perform a second, third and fourth set of complete envelope folds as outlined above in one hour intervals (or, in warmer temperatures, 35-45 minutes). You’ll notice the dough tightening in texture after each set.
PRE-SHAPING: Gently pat your dough into a square, approximately 1-inch thick. Without over-stretching your dough, perform a TIGHT envelope fold, but this time, eliminate the “stretching” step. Pinch your fingers down the length of the dough to seal each seam so the dough doesn’t roll back on itself. Flip your dough over, seam side down, cover with a towel, and let rest for 30 minutes.
SHAPING: Uncover your dough and place, seam-side up, onto a newly floured surface. Gingerly pat the dough into a square shape again, approximately 1-inch thick. Perform only the first two folds (top fold and bottom fold, not the sides) without stretching the dough.
Then, rotate the dough so that short side of the dough sits perpendicular to the table’s edge. Gently grab the short side of the dough and roll it up and away from you, down the length of dough. Seal the seam, flip the dough over, and form into a ball-like shape.
Gently cup the dough and rotate your hands in a circular motion, pulling the dough towards you. Take advantage of the drag from the dough sticking to your work surface. This helps to create tension in the outer layer of the dough, tightening and shaping the dough into a boule (the French term for ball). Repeat this process until a smooth boule is formed and the dough is taut. Gently place your boule into a well-floured proofing basket, (or bowl with a cloth liner) seam-side up (this will be the bottom of your loaf). Cover with a towel and let ferment overnight in the refrigerator.
Place a covered baker (Dutch oven or La Cloche) into the oven and preheat to 475 degrees F for 30-45 minutes. If you don’t have a covered baker see our *note below.
Remove your dough from the refrigerator and flip upside-down onto a floured cutting board (seam-side should be down). When the oven is ready, slash your dough with a bread lame (or very sharp knife). Slash at an angle, about a 1/4 inch deep, quickly and confidently. Good slashing is important, as it allows the bread to expand as it bakes. One slash will do, but you can do more if you wish to create a pattern.
BAKE: Carefully remove the lid from your (very hot) covered baker and gently slide your loaf inside. Put the lid on and bake, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Then carefully remove the lid, reduce the heat to 450 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The bread is done when the loaf is deep brown with a crusty opening in the middle where the bread has been slashed. Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. DO NOT cut into the bread before it cools - it’s still cooking inside!
* If you do not have a covered baker, use a cookie sheet or pizza stone to bake on. You will also need a heat-proof baking dish to create steam in your oven. Add 1-2 cups of crushed ice to the baking dish at the same time you place your dough in the oven (to create steam). Reduce the heat to 450 after 20 minutes (just as described above), but you do not need to open the oven and remove anything; the ice will have evaporated by then.
STORING YOUR SOURDOUGH: Freshly baked sourdough is always best on the first day, however you can extend that fresh flavor and texture by wrapping your bread in a cloth or with Bees Wrap and storing it at room temperature.
Photos and original recipe by: Chenoa Bol